Yu Wei Wang
Clinical Associate Professor
University of Maryland Counseling Center
Dr. Yu Wei Wang is a Clinical Associate Professor, Research Director, and Assistant Director and the University of Maryland Counseling Center. Her research focuses on psychosocial processes related to stress, trauma, coping/problem solving, and well-being in culturally diverse populations as well as multicultural issues in counseling and training.
What drew you to the field of psychology and your current interests?
My experience growing up in Taiwan as a first-generation college student from a working class family drew me to the field of Psychology. I am very fortunate to have parents, mentors, and teachers who strongly supported my academic pursuit. Also, my spiritual belief as a Buddhist—which values genuineness, interpersonal connections, love, and compassion for all beings—taught me to be true to myself, empathize with underprivileged populations, and engage in the process of introspection and deep reflection. Later, I became very interested in international, multicultural, and stress/coping issues because of my experience of studying Counseling and Organization Psychology as an international student in the United States. I am very fortunate to have been mentored by Dr. Puncky Heppner at the University of Missouri and Dr. Christine Yeh at Teachers College Columbia University. The process of living in “two” worlds (growing up in a more collectivistic culture and trying to strive in a more individualistic society) led me to utilize my cross-cultural experience to explore what gender, racial, and ethnic identities mean to me personally and to examine the role of coping in various populations through research endeavors. Such experiences also helped me realize the importance of empowering self and others through the development of awareness, knowledge and skills in counseling, research, and education.
A doctoral degree in psychology can lead to a number of different careers. Can you tell us about how you chose your current career path?
I am passionate about counseling, research, teaching, and mentoring. So, I chose a career path that will allow me to do all these.
As you think back to your undergraduate days, what were some experiences that were helpful in bringing you to where you are today?
My undergraduate education in English & American Literature facilitated my learning and reflection on feminism and multiculturalism. My professors taught me to how to analyze and understand the dynamic interactions and power differences in the society. I learned to employ myself as an instrument in understanding literature and psychology, and in creating an interpretive space both between writing and reading and between clients and therapist. Also, I was a very active member in an undergraduate student organization that served community members and school-age children. I was inspired to help others utilize their strengths and available resources to deal with various problems in life.
How do you think we can get more Asian Americans interested in psychology, starting at the undergraduate level?
I think it may be helpful to provide career workshops to Asian American students and introduce Asian American psychologists who are good role models (highlighting the unique challenges that they encountered in their career pursuits as Asian Americans and resources that have helped them succeed). It may also be helpful to provide more outreach programs and workshops specifically about mental health issues confronting the Asian and Asian American populations.
What advice would you give any undergraduates who are thinking about majoring in psychology, or pursuing graduate school in psychology?
I believe it is important for undergraduates who are thinking about majoring in Psychology or pursuing graduate school in Psychology to start taking some Psychology classes, gain some paraprofessional experiences in Psychology or Counseling, and accumulate research experiences so that they can figure out if Psychology (and which subdiscipline in Psychology) is the right path for them.